When I found out about Charlotte, North Carolina-based coffee roasting company, Hex Coffee, I was immediately drawn to its beautiful, minimalist styled packaging. I’ve had the pleasant opportunity to chat with Co-Founders, Tanner Morita and John Michael Cord. In this installment, Tanner and John Michael will be sharing their account of what specialty coffee means to them as well as giving you a “day in the life” of what it’s like to own a roasting company!
Emmeline Wang: Tell me more about your specialty coffee journey. What inspired you to explore the industry?
Tanner Morita: I am originally from Portland, and obviously there’s been a big boom with the specialty coffee industry. I’ve been surrounded with the industry and it grew on me. I got to see other parts of the country’s coffee culture and got to see what worked and what didn’t. I moved to Virginia where there was no good coffee in the area at the time, started home roasting, and went down the rabbit hole from there. After Virginia, I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina and that was where I met John Michael. The rest is history from there!
John Michael Cord: I actually didn’t like coffee at all, my exploration started 7 years ago. A friend of mine was leaving Starbucks and I was hired there as a fill in. I still didn’t like coffee, but really enjoyed Frappuccinos. What I came to love, though, was the communal aspect of how people gather together around coffee. Specialty coffee means so much to me as it starts backwards, where we try to trace back from the producer first, then move forward to roasting, and finally to service. Ultimately, I’ve come to develop an admiration for coffee because everyday, I’m a part of something bigger than myself. I enjoy the people I work with, and impacting others through coffee.
EW: How did you start out Hex Coffee? What’s the meaning behind the name, “Hex?”
TM: John Michael worked at pretty much every coffee shop in Charlotte and our paths crossed when we both worked at Not Just Coffee. We mesh really well and are both very competitive, constantly pushing each other to sharpen our skillsets. We have a mutual friend, Chandler who is very passionate about connecting people together, identifying their strengths, and placing them into positions in which they can truly excel. He talked to us about splitting from our jobs at the time to create our own thing. We then started out Hex altogether, starting with a popup and pure grassroots growth. We wanted a minimal, simple name. We also wanted something that relates and pays homage to the Charlotte locale. Hex was the perfect name, as it’s short and pertains directly to the hornet’s nest. Also, here’s a fun scientific fact: when caffeine breaks down to the molecular level, a hex shape is formed!
EW: As business owners, there are many rewards that come along with overcoming obstacles. What is the most significant challenge that you’ve overcome that helped you grow as a people?
JMC: It’s been about identifying what parts of our personalities mesh well and which ones do not. Since we are hyper competitive with each other, we can sometimes clash. It’s a work in progress to know how to give and take as business partners. We’ve come to find that where two people lack strength, the other makes up with possessing it (ie: relationship management, etc.) Having focused communication and being upfront with honesty has truly helped us with moving forward.
TM: Empowering our employees and seeing them fully buy in and crush their performance on bar has truly been rewarding!
EW: Okay, so we’re looking at the Ethiopia Wonago! What makes this coffee one of your favorites?
TM: I’ve always been a huge, HUGE fan of Ethiopian coffees. Coffees from Ethiopia have potential to really display how good a coffee can be. The crystalline sweetness and complexity in the Wonago is nothing short of amazing. I am very proud of this coffee because of the work we’ve done with Heleanna Georgalis and the Moplaco team. They buy their coffees from the ECX (Ethiopian Commodities Exchange) and then, further clean the beans to produce a cleaner tasting coffee. I think what she is doing is truly special and it’s been a blessing to work with her and bring this coffee to fruition for Hex.
EW: What are some future plans that you are very excited for Hex?
TM: We started the roastery about 8 months ago and subleased Summit Coffee’s roastery. About 6 months ago, we found a building that’s currently in re-development north of Charlotte’s downtown area, signed a lease, and are super stoked to move into our own roastery in about a month. We’re super excited to get the roastery up and running and get our brand out beyond Charlotte.
EW: It’s truly been a pleasure speaking with the both of you and sharing your story on EmmMeetsCoffee!
To purchase Hex Coffee’s Ethiopia Wonago, check it out here.
Until next time!